Piano Street Magazine

Recommended Book: Keyboard Interpretation – from the 14th to the 19th Century

November 23rd, 2010 in Piano News by | 3 comments

Keyboard Interpretation from the 14th to the 19th Century by Howard Ferguson. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993 (1975). 215 pp.

This inspiring standard work is an introduction to the interpretation of keyboard music from the fourteenth to the nineteenth century. Dr Ferguson provides information about the instruments themselves, and discusses this vast, fascinating, and ever-changing subject under the headings; musical types and forms, tempo, phrasing and articulation, fingering, rhythmic conventions, the “tones” or modes, ornamentation, pianists’ problems, and editors’ problems.

This is also a compact and comprehensive reference for performance practice concerns. Although the material is presented with the performing pianist in mind as the audience, this book does deal some specifically with the clavichord and its literature. The book’s performance suggestions extend into the romantic era, but focus primarily on music before 1800. There are sections dealing specifically with all of the concerns of the keyboardist including tempo, articulation, fingering, rhythmic conventions, ornamentation, pedalling and problems specific to the piano, and limitations of compass. Especially helpful are the selective guides to literature on keyboard interpretation and music in modern editions. Although reading the book is the best way of gaining information here, the ornametation section is organized sufficiently well to be used as a reference at the keyboard. Because of the careful condensation of important material accomplished in this short volume, this should be the cornerstone of the informed keyboardist’s book collection on performance. It is a clear, detailed, and practical guide to authenticity in performance which all keyboard players will find indispensable.

“I cannot imagine any serious student of keyboard playing not wanting to have and study this wonderful book. It doesn’t take much study to realize that the notes on the page are just the outline of a piece of music. There is a great deal about each piece that is not notated. It takes an understanding of what is unsaid in the notation in order to bring a piece of music to life.”
– Craig Matteson

View sample pages on Google Books:

This book on Amazon.com

Belfast-born Howard Ferguson’s (1908-1999) reputation as a composer rests on the nineteen published works that he wrote between 1928 and 1959. Rhythmic energy endows his music with its exciting sense of momentum, underpinned by his command of Baroque and Classical forms and grasp of Romantic harmony and melody. With the cessation of composing, Ferguson began to concentrate on editing early keyboard music. His love of musical craftsmanship and his experience as a performing pianist prepared him well for this transition. He compiled anthologies of early keyboard music that appealed to accomplished musicians and amateurs alike. In 1975 he authored and published the book Keyboard Interpretation. Ferguson’s musical career was partly devoted to instruction. Between 1948 and 1963 he taught composition at the Royal Academy of Music in London; many of his students ended up becoming accomplished composers in their own right.

Composer Howard Ferguson´s recordings listed at ARKIV MUSIC


  • Irene says:

    Thank you for alerting me to this book–it seems very knowledgeable and I will certainly put it on my Xmas list !!

  • Gerda64 says:

    My thanks also for alerting me to the above book. As a one time player who is returning to the piano after a long absence, I need all the help and advice I can get.

  • Johnk570 says:

    Regards for helping out, superb information.

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